ADDICTION- is racing bad for us?

ADDICTION- is racing bad for us?

Larry O'Donohue

The pure definition of the word "addiction" is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. It is derived from the Latin addictio which meaning “a giving over, or to surrender.”

After viewing Ron Howard’s latest release Rush, I sat with my fellow Pit Crew members in a posh movie theater in posh Tyson’s Corner VA and realized we were all completely enthralled with not only the movie but the “Hollywood” portrayal of two extremely passionate racers, James Hunt and Nikki Lauda.  Like most racers, Hunt and Lauda were addicted, not only to the speed and the death defying stunt known as race car driving but also to the complete life style. Racing can be glamorous. It can feed even the biggest of egos.

But addiction is simply defined as a bad thing. Is racing really not healthy for us?

It is expensive; many a racer has been known to literally bet the ranch on their racing operation. They have placed their family in the poor house. They have ruined other businesses that were successful to keep the addiction alive. Families have been destroyed, countless dollars placed in a winless operation. I am not even placing any value on the immeasurable time and effort one has invested in their racing endeavors; I shudder to use the word career.

In some cases racers became involved in illegal activities in order to feed their habit. Heck NASCAR’s roots are in moon shine running.

What motivates us, is it the adrenaline, the dancing with death, doing what someone else has no kahunas to try? It’s all of the above!

I am writing this from the media center at Maple Grove Park in Mohnton, PA. A picturesque farm community that opens its farm field’s to tens of thousands of rabid racers and fans. Today, it is nearly filled to capacity and almost standing room only.  For most fans, this is a form of relaxation. Watching nitro methane powered explosions taking 4 seconds to consume 1000 feet of two lane blacktop. Speed, yes speed is not only a factor, it’s the only factor.  Courtney Force, daughter of legendary racer John Force, has just set the world record in a Funny Car at 329 miles per hour in that same 1000 feet. We all have just witnessed racing history. Most of us will never forget this day. Our need for speed is now full to capacity, well no it isn’t! We want to see if she can do it again.

I surmise that race fans are the most rabid sports fans. They understand the addiction and embrace it. Thousands of dollars will be spent this weekend acquiring t-shits, hat and other racing trinkets. These trinkets will become heir looms to be passed down from generation to generation.

I am always pleased to see the families at the track. Mom, Dad, Sis and Jr. wearing their best racing garb, thrilled to death to be here. The torch is alive, well lit and being brilliantly passed on. It’s our Olympic torch.

But is this breeding of another generation of the addicted? Why yes it is and we are pleased to play our part. Sanctioning bodies, track promoters, teams, drivers, crews and sponsors are all willing participants in the furthering of our need for speed. Even we in the media portray the sights and sounds of our beloved sport. We will give you the good, the bad and the ugly.

Corporations are not only guilty of feeding our addiction, they embrace it! Who would have ever thought racing sponsorship would ever go past Gas Tires and Oil. The car manufacturers were the ultimate beneficiary back in the day. Then came corporate America, Revell Toys sponsored the legendary Snake and Mongoose rivalry (now also a big screen production) then there were the beer companies. You identified your brand favorites with drivers and teams and auto manufacturers.

NASCAR brilliantly broke down the advertising barrier between general consumer products and the racing world. The Fortune 500 jumped in with both feet. Would Juan Manuel Fangio ever think his race car would be sponsored by Tide laundry detergent- I think not- but the brand did exist in his day?

Racing takes sponsorship to a unique level, you don’t see RGIII with a Miller Lite sticker on his helmet and A Rod is not brought to the plate by Burger King. Racing connects with its fans and the fans keep asking for more.

In spite of the worst economy, not only in this country but worldwide in modern history, racing is still alive and well. It always will be, it will adjust and adapt. We need to race, it’s what we do- it simply defines who we are.

Here’s the good news, while this addiction has no known cure, there is a tremendous support group. The Gear Head community is perhaps the largest fraternity/sorority on earth. Members can be found in the four corners of the earth. From boat racing, air planes, jet skis, snow mobiles, motorcycles, cars, trucks- it makes no difference. Gear Heads are everywhere.

If you are a “sufferer”, think back to where you were first “bit”. It’s not like drinking kool aid, more like venom with no known antidote.

Feel free to send me your story, who led you down this path, was it a parent, a sibling, other family member? Was it a so called “friend”? Your responsible comment is invited; actually I will accept your irresponsible comment as well.

Do you owe this person, a debt of gratitude or merely a debt?

Well let’s all resign to do what we do best- keep your green flag flying!

Larry O-